Eastern Center for Arts and Technology (EASTERN) is proud to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing the achievements and sharing the stories of our Hispanic American students. This week, we feature Soila Portnoy, a Cheltenham High School/EASTERN Allied Health senior. Soila was nominated for this student spotlight by her Allied Health Instructor, Ms. Allison Latzo, who is impressed with Soila’s passion for the medical field and her desire to be involved in EASTERN’s student leadership.
To Soila, National Hispanic Heritage Month is a special time to reflect on all of the hard work her family put in to provide her and her sisters with a better life. “This country is made up of immigrants. We are recognizing the work that our families did for themselves and for this country,” said Soila. “I take a lot of pride in my history. Colombia is a beautiful place, and it is a part of who I am.”
Soila’s parents both originally came from the same town in Columbia, yet they met at an airport in New York. Soila loves visiting her family in Colombia, as her grandparents and much of her dad’s family still reside there. Her mother’s family left Columbia for better educational opportunities for their children. Her father came to New York after college for better work opportunities. He is now a successful sales representative in the food and beverage industry. Soila’s mom immigrated to the U.S. in high school, with very little money and limited English. Her mother took ESL classes in high school and succeeded in her education despite the language barriers and went on to earn scholarships for her bachelor and masters programs in education. She now teaches ESL students in Philadelphia as a way to help others in her shoes to succeed.
Soila’s parents and grandparents always stressed the importance of getting a good education and establishing a career. Soila learned early on that her career would be in the medical field when her sister was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at just 3 years old. At the time, Soila was 4 years old and remembers all of the doctor's appointments and classes that the family needed to take to make sure her sister was healthy and that they were managing the disease properly. Over the years, Soila found herself constantly researching the disease, and wanting to learn more about the pancreas, glucose, and the technology that improves the lives of those living with Type 1 Diabetes.
Soila’s family inspires her in many ways. “My mom inspired me to work hard. Her whole life is something I have admired. I never had the worries she had – but I never forgot how hard she worked. My parents always encourage me to learn and work hard. I see how it paid off for them,” said Soila. “My sister inspires me in a different way. She helped me find my passion. Her experience shaped who I am. Without that, I wouldn’t know what I want to do after high school.”